CMCR 9/ North 3 Outings 2014 – Jerry Clegg

Steve Harris with North 3 at Lymm, last year. Copyright resides with the original holder.

Steve Harris with North 3 at Lymm, last year. Copyright resides with the original holder.



North 3 Wins an “Oscar”

The last BBC Type 2 colour scanner still on the road, CMCR9/North 3, has won an award. The Duncan Neale Award for Excellence in Preservation has been awarded by the British Vintage Wireless Society to Steve Harris, the owner of the restored LO5 / Midland / North 3 OB unit CMCR9, which entered service in 1969. Steve’s self-effacing acceptance speech lavished praise on his small team of dedicated volunteers and their multifarious talents, but not mentioned was his own multi-skilled determination without which the North 3 Project would never have got off the ground.

Steve and his team spent the winter getting ready for the new show season and preparing new treats for the visitors. October saw Steve H  produce the first pictures for many years from a 44 year old EMI 2001 camera and December saw the first powering-up by Steve Jones of a very rare Philips PC80 camera originally from North 1/CMCR7. Richard Ellis, former Chief Engineer of Pye TVT Ltd has restored to full operation the original Pye sync pulse generators which he designed back in the 60s. This involved finding equivalents and replacing more than 100 discrete transistors.

Meanwhile, Eric Hignett has been building an amazing generator, powered by a Ford Transit diesel engine. In ‘proof of concept’ form, this was a real Heath Robinson affair on a trailer, with a motor-bike silencer and speed maintained by a modified cruise control for a car. It worked and the first run, apart from producing a tremendous amount of noise, delivered 40 amps at 230 volts, which powered three aircon units and other auxilliaries in North 3, all electronics being kept well away from this unproven beast for the test run. Eric went away to scratch his head, refine the design and try to make it produce less noise!

North 3 was booked at the time of writing to take part in the Cheshire Commercial Vehicle Run on 27th April starting at Lymm Truckstop on the M6. This is a trip of over 100 miles. The first public show this year was at the Llandudno Transport Festival on 3, 4 and 5 May, followed by the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Rally at Kelsall near Tarvin, Cheshire, on 21and 22 June.

Kelsall is a special event for ERF vehicles, originally manufactured at nearby Sandbach, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the enthusiasts’ club. Steve is hoping to take his latest acquisition, ex-BBC Type 7 scanner LO23, (an ERF E6) to display alongside North 3. Restoration has not yet started, so it will be just as it was when rescued from imminent destruction at a scrap yard following decommissioning by SIS.

Later in the summer we expect North 3 to be at the Wilmslow Show in July and the highlight of the season will be another appearance at the popular Onslow Park Steam Rally near Shrewbury over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Jerry Clegg

(This article is due for publication in Prospero’s June edition)


The following comment was posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Keith Brook (Scouse): ‘Of all my memories of that scanner, I think having so much fun with the riggers was the best. They really were the salt of the earth.’

CMCR9’s Outings 2013 – Jerry Clegg

CMCR9 at Onslow, photo Steve Harris

CMCR9 at Onslow, photo Steve Harris














CMCR9 at Onslow, photo by Steve Harris

CMCR9’s cameras at Onslow, photo by Steve Harris














The restored heritage TV outside broadcast truck CMCR9 successfully completed all the summer commitments with its appearance at the Shrewsbury Steam Fair on 25th/26th August. The vehicle itself has run without a problem all summer long. This year’s shows were at Kelsall, Astle park, Wilmslow and Onslow Park with an additional private demonstration for the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club. Steve Harris and Steve Jones restored a little more of the ancient equipment to operation for each show and most of the sound desk is now working quite well, although the PPMs are still giving some trouble at the moment.

The Wilmslow Show took place in the middle of the July heatwave with the temperature reaching 30 degrees. Fortunately the show organizers provided us with a large 45 Kva generator which more than met our needs and enabled the air conditioning to be used for the first time. Having received some recent attention, the two aircon units over the cab worked faultlessly all day and people were coming into the scanner to cool off. This was very unlike the previous outing at Kelsall on 23rd June when folk were coming inside to get out of the cold squally wind!

The last three shows all took place in good weather which attracted lots of visitors, keen to see how we were getting on. A number of former staff visited us who had not been to see us before.  We were fortunate in getting excellent pitches for all the shows with plenty of room for our static display which included PC 80 and EMI 2001 cameras. The main problem now is that the power demand of the working equipment exceeds the power available from Steve’s 6.5Kva generator. He’s looking around for something more substantial!

Thanks to all those who sent reminiscences of the Anglsey Climb OB back in 1970, produced by Alan Chivers. What a pity we don’t see shows like that any more.

The only remaining scheduled public appearance of North3 this year is to an exhibition at Salford University Media Centre towards the end of October.

The pictures (from the Onslow Park Rally) are by Steve Harris.

Jerry Clegg

For more details about North 3 see:

For details about the Salford Technology Fair on 19th and 20th Oct, use this link:

Studio Operations (part 9) – Ray Lee


Allowance rate card 1982

Allowance rate card 1982














Schedule A and the O.B. Mafia

One of the results of the BBC at one time being part of the Civil Service, was its adoption of a lot of the terms and conditions of service that were current at that time. Things like a generous pension scheme, retirement at 60, good holiday entitlements, and good allowances for people working away from their normal base. Whenever the BBC managers tried to change any of this, the Union would generally put it to dispute and status quo would prevail, such was the power of Unions before Mrs Thatcher, that more often than not things didn’t change much.

My understanding was that Schedule A allowances were convenient for the BBC, as it enabled them to save on the administration of booking people into hotels and arranging transport, for staff manning outside broadcasts. Basically the staff themselves undertook booking Hotels/Guest houses and arranging their own transport to the appropriate venue. In some ways I personally think this was a bit of a cop out by BBC managers, but for the staff involved it could be quite lucrative if they “worked the system”. The net result of this was that those on the O.B. rotation defended their position in staying in this privileged position quite vigorously. Some of the arguments in favour were perfectly valid, e.g. CMCR9 had different cameras to the studio, so those not having been on O.B.s would not be familiar with them. On the other hand it maintained the exclusivity, with no opportunity for engineers not on the rotation to gain that experience. As scanners were tight for space anyway it would be difficult to have a supernumerary engineer to gain experience, and the team needed to work well together as most O.B.s were quite pressured. Thus the exclusive nature earned the team the nick name “Scanner Mafia” or just “Mafia” for short.

some of the 'Scanner Mafia'. Photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission

some of the ‘Scanner Mafia’. Photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission













I don’t remember who first coined the term, probably either John Kimberly or Mike Lee, but both used it regularly, as did a number of other engineers who were not part of what at face value seemed to be an exclusive club. People did break into it over the years, and I myself had 2 periods working on O.B.s, but the first was not until we were using another scanner equipped with EMI 2001 cameras. My second period was with the then new type 5 scanner with Link cameras shortly before I left operations to join engineering services where I remained for the rest of my career.

Schedule A used properly enabled one to stay in approx 3 star accommodation, and covered costs of reasonable quality restaurants for additional meals. In theory if one overspent slightly in one place, that would be compensated by underspend in another. In practice, many engineers chose to stay in the cheapest accommodation possible, go to cheap burger bars or restaurants, and pocket the not inconsiderable difference as a tax free lump sum. Additionally those living some distance from base, but on the right side for the O.B. engaged in what was colloquially known as a “flyer”. They stayed in their own home, travelled to and from the O.B. site each day, and claimed Schedule A as if they had stayed on location and as a result profited very nicely thank you. It is reckoned that some engineers almost doubled their take home pay in this way. Certainly a strong incentive for the group to maintain the status quo. The management knew it was happening but turned a blind eye as challenging it would almost certainly have triggered a union dispute.

A few years later, it became necessary to submit receipts to show that there had been expenses of the kind that Schedule A allowances were intended to defray. That came in at about the time that I had around 3 months working with O.B.s. Even so without even trying I ended up better off by a good amount. On the whole the Schedule A allowance was quite generous although it has to be said that certain expensive locations would more than use it up. In those cases it was quite often agreed to take actuality payments, although those were strictly receipts only, and any expenses for which there was no receipt (like beer down the local pub), had to be waived. Nevertheless the O.B. crew did very nicely out of it for the most part, to the great envy of those who were working in the studio, and not on the rotation.

Ray Lee


The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Pete Simpkin: ‘Fascinating the world of OB expenses. I recall in my early days being the engineer for coverage of a three day cricket match.This involved three nights away because I could not drive the vehicle back to base after the whole day duty at the last day of the match. One of the jobs I was required to do there was to tape a half hour ‘audition commentary’ in one of the periods we were not on air with the regular commentators. In those days you had to fill in a recording form which went with the tape and a copy was carbonned for Accounts. I happened to not tick an obscure box marked ‘shared’ on this form so it looked as if I had travelled the 60 miles to the location and stayed three overnights away just for a 30 minute recording! Some weeks later I was hauled up before someone in Accounts as the operation as documented was ‘not very economical’!!’

Studio Operations (part 4) – Ray Lee


Studio A EMI 2001 line up. Photo by John Kimberley, no reproduction without permission.

Studio A EMI 2001 line up. Photo by John Kimberley, no reproduction without permission.












The Cameras

Both Studio A and B were equipped with EMI 2001 cameras, which were unique in using four 1.25 inch camera tubes. Unlike most of the other colour cameras which used just 3 tubes, the EMI’s had a 4 way light splitter block (the ice block) which allowed a full spectrum image to the Luminance tube, and then split to red, green and blue for the colour images. The reason for this was that it meant only the luminance channel needed to be a full bandwidth channel, as this was the one channel to define the image sharpness and detail. The colour channels could get away with a lower bandwidth, and thereby were less critical. The downside was lack of sensitivity, as the luminance split effectively halved the sensitivity for the same amount of light. This meant Studios had to be lit very brightly, with a lot of lighting power.

Other manufacturers used only a 3 way colour split and had the green channel as the full bandwidth channel, to provide the detail information. This maintained sensitivity, but because the image was the filtered green image, this did not always work as well as a full spectrum image.

One of the problems of the early colour cameras was the lack of sensitivity to the red end of the spectrum, and this was particularly so with the EMI’s. It most noticeably showed up with purples and magentas which were invariably seen as blue by the cameras. Later cameras used extended red response tubes, and generally seemed to produce rather more saturated colours than the EMI’s could, but few seemed able to match the image sharpness and crispness which seemed so characteristic of the EMI’s

Prior to every studio booking the cameras needed alignment. This was because the electronics of that era tended to drift with temperature, and the camera tubes themselves drifted being thermionic devices. Also the length of cable between the camera and CCU had a big effect on the  camera signal, and had to be compensated for by the electronics. The cameras were all set up looking at a grey scale chart, and adjustments were made on the CCU to ensure that all the colour channels were giving the same signal level, in order that the combined output was neutral grey, at the different brightness levels of the chart. The light on the chart was adjusted to give a colour temperature of 2950 and a light level of 1600lux using a special light meter called a Collux.

The cameras were also aligned on a registration chart. This was a grid of lines which enabled adjustments to be made so that the images from each tube exactly over-laid each other. If these adjustments were wrong coloured fringes would appear at the edges of objects.

One of the first jobs I did after starting to work in studio ops. was to write up a set of alignment instructions for the cameras. It helped me to effectively learn more about the cameras and how they worked, and also gave a set of standardised methodical adjustments to aim to get the best out of the cameras, that all the engineers could use. I am grateful to Peter Hodges for pushing me to do this in the early days, as it really helped ground me in the basics. Whether other engineers actually found it helpful I don’t know, or whether they even referred to them, but at least they were available where before there was nothing written down.

Ray Lee

Developments at Pebble Mill 1984


Eng inf 1984:5 PP Studio B PP








































Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing these pages about technical developments, including a new dubbing and sypher suite, and Studio B control room refurbishment, at Pebble Mill in the internal BBC Engineering Newsletter from 1984/5.

The following information was added on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Keith Brook: ‘The original 1/4″ location sound was transferred onto special 16mm separate magnetic, sep-mag, film. Now, the film and the sound were the same ‘size’ and could be edited together by the film editor. If it was drama, for example, you’d end up with a complete film and dialogue track but minus the music, sound effects, wild-track and so on. You would them make a second, or third, sep-mag track that had the music, effects and so on, all in the right places but with extra lead-in and lead-out.

Dubbing was where you took that 16mm film, its matching 16mm dialogue track, the other tracks and put them on a huge machine that kept everything in sync. You would then run the whole lot through a sound mixer onto a final track, fading the effects in and out according to a dubbing script that matched the frame counter.

SYPHER was a video system and is a BBC acronym for ‘SYnchronous Post-production using Helical-scan video and Eight-track Recorder’. Essentially, it worked like film-dubbing, but the 8-track sound machine was kept in sync with the video player by time code rather than mechanically as in film. Again, once you had the dialogue track and all the other bits in the right places, you would have a final ‘dub’ where you put it all together onto the audio track of the video recorder. The clever bit with SYPHER was the motorised faders on the sound desk which, again using timecode, would remember their settings at each moment during the final dub.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘Good memories of those times. This was during a period of 3 – 4 years of major refurbishment of the studio and VT areas. From the vision viewpoint in the studios , it was the change from the stalwart EMI 2001 cameras to the Link 125.’